Tag Archives: Clarice Keese Williams

Honeymoon Take Two

It’s the year of our 50th wedding anniversary and Donny decides that we will revisit the places where it all started June 7th, 1969. The kids would throw us a party if we ask, but since we just had a stellar command performance (a friend’s term for family events 100% attendance) for Donny’s 70th birthday in September, we let them off the hook. Not being big party people anyway Donny comes up with this perfect redo. We plan to combine oldest grandson’s graduation on June 2 with our honeymoon trip figuring that’s close enough date wise.

Photo 1 We go to see Funny Girl on our first date. Donny has me at buttered popcorn. Photo 2 And fifty years later. Photo 3 He surprises me with our own theater style popcorn popper.

For unknown reasons Market Square #13 (such an iconic number) gets renumbered (now #3056) and trying to book our original honeymoon room becomes problematic without knowing the new number. Donny & I actually take a picture of the room number (for future reference) a few years back when we’re in Williamsburg for the day with Donald & Terri and Sebastian but it lands in the digital maze of lostness.

Donny persists. He gets up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Architectural history department and they find the answer. He books our room explaining his intent and the reason for the request of our special room.

We have spent the day in northern Virginia with our West Springfield HS graduate and it is late in the day when we arrive. We need to check in at the Williamsburg Inn where reservations are handled.

The Inn has a cozy nook for this purpose with individual desks for the two clerks and plush wing chairs for guests if a wait is needed. Next to us a couple and teen are also checking in. The girl muses aloud about having to get up so early for their trip. We are curious. They tell us that they have flown in from L.A. Because of graduation, we have also gotten up early to make the drive to NoVA. We commiserate with her. The couple explain that they are taking their granddaughter on a trip to include Williamsburg, Washington DC, and lastly Monticello.

Ours is a charming room with its own outside door and narrow staircase to the snug space. Good friend Sherrie’s (yes, wedding dress Sherrie) mom is the public relations director for Colonial Williamsburg when we marry and has made all the arrangements for our original two night stay. She even surprises us with a sweet floral arrangement on our door stoop. And spirits our car away to a safe place to thwart any shenanigans Donny’s younger brothers might devise.

The room has barely changed with its steep stair entry, dormer windows and slanting roof lines. We are just as enchanted as on our first visit. Donny has opted for the romantic package and we are greeted with fresh flowers, amazing chocolate covered strawberries, and champagne. We have dinner at Chownings Tavern a short cobblestone stroll across The Duke of Gloucester Street and call it a very full day.

The following morning we have breakfast in the Inn dining room as part of our Romantic Package. As we leave the Inn, an employee passing by stops to comment on Donny’s shirt. He is Hawaiian and recognizes it as authentic. He has a good eye, I’ve purchased it from Newt’s at the Royal Hawaiian when Suzanne & I take a sister trip there in 2005.

We plan to spend most of our day meandering through the private gardens that connect to each other via low slung wooden gates kept in place with a cannon ball weight on heavy chain. We’ve done the tours before, the gardens are perfect because most people do not know they are open to the public so they are generally quiet with only an occasional other visitor or two. Colonial Williamsburg is fairly compact making our plan perfect for strolling.

We have a carriage ride on our schedule also as part of our Romantic Package. As we approach the carriage stop we are surprised to see our by chance new friends from check in. They have scheduled a carriage ride for the same time (several carriages are in service).

We chat a bit and then their carriage loads up. Ours is quick to follow and periodically we spy them as both carriages clop clop up and down the cobblestone streets. We arrive back first and as I disembark I see their carriage approaching. On an impulse I dash into the street and snap a few photos for them. They have my card, they can contact me later, that is if the card doesn’t get lost, it’s one of those small style ones. They wave thanks and Donny & I wander away.

We get ice cream at tiny Dubois Grocer and I show Donny the garden nearby with huge double hedge rows the guys loved to play in while eating their cones when we would take a stretch stop traveling between Richmond and the Outer Banks. Wandering on we discover a huge flat lawn perfect for croquet behind a lovely home on Nicholson Street. We spy an interesting looking area at the far end. We decide to investigate. We approach the split rail fence and a mason asks if we are lost. It turns out we have discovered the colonial brickyard. We tell him not really and ask him about his about his job and the entire fascinating scene. It’s new to us since we last visited Colonial Williamsburg. Later we learn that you need a ticket to visit the exhibit properly.

He tells us that he teaches folks (mostly kids) how to prepare the wet clay for brick shaping. It’s basically stomping it with your bare feet until nice and blended. Bricks are made all summer, dried and then stacked into a huge hollow rectangle box. This is fired in the fall to such an intensity that the brick shapes become usable bricks. A one time self made kiln.The amateur potter in me is delighted. Conservation at its best. We thank him for our lesson, wave goodbye and head toward our room. It’s time to dress for dinner with Sherrie.

(…to be continued. You didn’t really think that I could put the entire honeymoon redo in one post did you)

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Keese & Martin, A LOVE Story of Hollywood Proportions

Act One

“Well, will you or won’t you?” Not exactly a romantic proposal, but read on and then decide if this is not truly a real life Hollywood moment.

The time is 1946, he is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She is a student at Mary Baldwin in Staunton. Her daddy is minister at the Methodist church in Farmville. She comes home almost every weekend because it’s where the action is. I’m in this story too. I am a tiny thing living with my grandparents while Mom and Dad work long hours in Richmond making ends meet as there is no child care of any worth or reasonable rate available.

It’s Halloween weekend, Martin comes to visit close relatives that live in Farmville. The dating set congregates at the local drug store. Soda fountain or booth, both hold equal attraction for this young crowd. Keese is there along with Mom and other friends. Jane, a New York city relative of Martin’s, who is more than certain that her big city experience far outdistances any small town take on life, decides that Martin needs to meet Keese.

She steers him to the drugstore where he is instantly smitten with married Mom. He unabashedly flirts. Mom knows her place, but is not above casual flirting and flattery. Keese takes an instant dislike to him. Jane isn’t as match maker savvy as she thinks , she’s wrong about this one.

Act Two

Keese

After a time, part of the group goes to the record store to pick out some vinyls. In those days you could listen to a record before buying it. They take their choices to a friend’s bomb shelter her family built during recently ended WWII. Dancing commences and Martin gets a good eyeful of Keese’s legs and her ability to cut the rug better than most. He is impressed.

Me, Mom and Keese

Later at home, Keese gets a call from Jane asking her if she will go out with Martin the next night. “Nope.” Keese is still peeved that he hit on Mom. Jane will not give up. She calls Martin to get the same answer. Back and forth Jane goes, she is not to be denied her match making. Finally Keese agrees.

The next night when Martin comes to the parsonage to pick Keese up, she is not quite ready. As she finishes up, she can hear Martin downstairs playing with me. Score points for Martin. When she comes down ready for her date, she finds Martin and myself down on the floor having a grand time. Score more points for Martin. Anyone that good with children cannot be all bad.

Act Three

They continue to date throughout the fall, Martin taking the bus back and forth on weekends from Charlottesville to Farmville. One weekend there is a big dance on the campus of Longwood the local girls college. Everyone has a good time, a very good time. Martin proposes to Keese. As high on the sauce as they both are she realizes that time is needed and plays a commonsense card. “Ask me again tomorrow.”

The next day sees them going to church, having lunch, enjoying the balance of the day before Martin has to catch the bus back to school. There is no mention of the night before. Keese is not going to bring it up. And Martin seems to have forgotten that he asked Keese to marry him and her reply.

 It’s time for the bus. Keese walks with Martin to the Greyhound bus station. They say goodbye. Martin gets on the waiting bus. The bus pulls aways. And then before it can leave the terminal it begins backing up. It backs into the spot it just vacated. Keese is dumbfounded. She is still waving goodbye.

The door opens. Martin emerges. He walks up to Keese grabs her by the shoulders and begins shaking her. “Well, will you or won’t you, damnit?”

Me in the dress my grandmother made

The passengers and driver dare not breathe. Then, “Yes!” she beams. “Yes, yes I will!” The audience erupts in cheers and applause. Hollywood could not do it any better.

I am flower girl at their wedding and I still have the dress.

THE END (of the beginning)

Keese, Mom, Martin & Uncle Dick (Keese’s sister IG aka as Florence Leigh’s hubs) in the late fifties still hanging out together. Here at Tides Inn in Irvington VA

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The HEART of Christmas

Christmas dinner at 6416 Three Chopt Road mid 70’s

“Fla’Leigh, I need the table.” This will be my grandmother pleading with her oldest to please move her Christmas present wrapping project so that the big dining room table can be set for dinner. I haven’t quite got the spelling figured out; but, my grandmother is extremely good at blending my aunt’s given name of Florence Leigh, which is what she is always called by her parents, into a one syllable word. Others call her Flo. Most call her I.G. I think I get that tag for trying to say Florence Leigh and coming up with an overly simplified version that sticks, but no one else calls her like her mother does. It’s a definite mother daughter thing.

“Yes, Ma’am,” everything is swiftly moved to a beautiful round cherry side table that collects odds and ends. It would be dining room table enough in any standard size room.

As I wrap up another year of present wrapping using our own long dining room table with gifts stretched out in a long line by family, I.G. and her Christmas present wrapping flurry always comes to mind. After dinner, back come all the presents still to be wrapped and the fixings.

It’s a cozy set up. The dining room is centrally located with its floor to ceiling pocket doors always open. One doorway is a view of the open staircase in the central hall ever busy with eternal holiday bustle. Carolers easily fit there when they stop by to fete us. Because there is plenty of room we invite them in for a moment of warmth.

Another pocket doorway gives access to the living room where an eternal four hand game of bridge rotates between the six adults. It is also where the tree is, so wrapped presents quickly get dispatched to a spot in the ever growing pile.

Placing packages under the tree mid 70’s. The dining room pocket door is on the right.

How did I.G. score this perfect wrapping spot? Mom always wraps presents before we leave Ohio. She plans to be ready to play bridge and shop at a moment’s notice. She even puts on bows and it is up to Dad to see that the car is packed in such a way as to minimize crushing. He could easily have created the game of Tetris. He is an expert at working all the angles. But even so, some bows suffer. Finally after too many years of even slightly smashed bows, Mom compromises. She will add bows in Richmond.

My other aunt, Keese and her husband Martin, always stay in the former maid’s room located next to the kitchen with its own outside door to the second story back porch that spans the back of the kitchen. Thankfully for cold weather this room also has an added tiny access door at the back of the connecting closet that opens into the pantry. It’s like a small apartment complete with bathroom and enough space for wrapping presents.

And so the dining room table is free for the having as my grandmother will have wrapped her few gifts before the thirteen of us arrive. She always give country hams to her three children. We grands get the balance of her gifting attention. My freshman year in college she gives me a much longed for wrap around skirt. They are the current rage. Mother Leigh has no idea what a wrap around skirt is, but that does not deter her. She gets help from a friendly clerk at LaVogue, a high end store out of her shopping league, but it’s where fashion happens. It’s my favorite present that year.

At the dining room table, I.G. can wrap presents and still be part of all the fun activities. She’ll even take a rare break, allowing me to take over after I prove my worth at proper wrapping. Together we will put ribbons on her last gifts mere moments before Santa arrives.

The dining room has one more door. This door leads to all the things that wrap every one of our family gatherings up into a figurative bow. It’s a swinging door to the back hall and beyond that the kitchen. The kitchen is where my grandmother holds court from sunrise (well before any of us are up) to sunset. She sits in the chair behind my dad in the photo and makes biscuits, rolls, and so much more but these two stand out in my mind. She cuts perfect biscuits, a few at a time from an enormous dough ball, with a drinking glass. Alton Brown has nothing on her ingenuity.

My beautiful cousin Jett gone too soon, my Dad and my Aunt Keese in the only picture that I know of that exists showing the kitchen at 6416 Three Chopt. It had our heart and is our core.

Mother Leigh’s cooking is traditional southern comfort food. She gets a real ham deep in the country. Her favorite spot is a dusty two pump gas station between Suffolk and Whaleyville. I take her on this journey one time. Those of you who know of Cindy’s Kitchen sixteen layer chocolate cake procured at the gas station in Coinjock, here’s to gas station food always ringing true. Prior to our arrival, she cooks the ham to perfection. She makes red eye gravy from the drippings. All through Christmas a bit of it will be simmering on the stove, ready to go on a freshly baked biscuit.

The smell of Mother Leigh’s legendary coffee drifts throughout the enormous house and nudges late sleepers awake. There is a steep switchback staircase between the kitchen and dining room that gives quick access to this family hub. Breakfast is an ongoing affair, something hot always waiting for each of us as we stumble down the stairs in haphazard fashion all morning long.

I make myself learn to like black coffee like my adored Uncle Dick (also godfather), husband to endless present wrapper I.G. It’s a drip affair. Eight O’clock blend beans ground to drip specification on the spot at the down the street A&P. Not content to settle for ordinary and not willing to pay more for the richer Bokar Blend, Mother Leigh cleverly pours the economy Eight O’Clock through twice making it even richer than Bokar. My sibs, cousins and I have cut our teeth on her coffee milk, mostly milk & sugar with a splash of coffee. But as the oldest grand it is my responsibility to take up the mantle of adult coffee drinking. Only Dick is a hard core purist. It’s an acquired taste but I persevere and to this day prefer my coffee just this way.

Mother Leigh’s kitchen is the heart of our Christmas. It’s where we air differences. It’s where we make up. It’s where we solve the world’s problems. And we cherish every moment. We know we are blessed.

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Waltzing Through TIME

Me, Mom & Dad in front of our new home at 6414 Three Chopt Road. We called it The Little House. It was the transformed double car garage of 6416 or as we called it The Big House. Photo credit Donald Loving.

I got an out of the blue email recently from the son of a college friend of Dad & Mom’s. All my life I have randomly but consistently heard of Donald Loving. More from Mom than Dad. It usually was a comment in passing. Donald was my grandmother’s pick for Mom. But not one to listen to her mother, Mom chose otherwise. Still Donald remained in her life. They even renewed their friendship after Mom moved to Reedville and Donald was living in Newport News.

Apparently Dad and Mom never left Donald’s thoughts either. This is note from Lee Loving (we have yet to meet).

Hello Sandra:

 I have struggled with sending this email for months, but being the “family historian” and happening upon your blog; I convinced myself to send it.
Up until my father’s death in 2011; I had heard the name Starke Jett my entire life. My father would talk about those days  on the North Neck of Virginia; growing up with Starke and maintaining a strong friendship through his college years at Randolph Macon.
 
It all came to head one fall day in the mid 1960’s when Dad came home and said this Starke Jett was coming for a visit. My Mother, Brother, Sister, and I were put to the task of “getting the place ready” for Dad’s best friend. My Dad was an Aeronautical Engineer for NASA, so we were used to keeping things in order. But this was a different mission. He pushed us like no other. We double cleaned, racked, cut, vacuumed, and dusted. I mean the placed look like an Embassy Suites by the time we were done.
 
Then, there he was. The man my Dad talked about more than anyone else was before my eyes. He came with his wife and son. He was charming, fun to talk to. His wife was a bit quiet but sweet. We went trick or treating with his son. I’ll never forget the amount of compassion my Dad had for Starke.
 
Now some 50 years later,  I have discovered that Dad kept every letter he received since 1932. What an adventure it has been. Among the many letters were letters from a Margaret Ann. I didn’t think much about it until I saw a letter from Starke Jett saying how much he had enjoyed meeting Margaret. Then they were more letters from both Margaret and Starke to my Dad. Around 1940 Starke was writing from Ohio, having enlisted in the Air Force.
 
I still hadn’t put two and two together until I decided to research Starke. And that’s when I ran across your Blog, your Mom’s and Father’s Obituary.  What a wonderful pair they made.
 
I hope this hasn’t brought up any ill feelings. You seem to appreciate your family’s history and memories. Thus, I thought I would share my experience with your Dad and how my Dad admired him.
A few weeks later a package arrives (Lee has advised me to look out for it). Inside are thirteen moments in time. All are treasures beyond measure. I’ve selected a few to scan. I posted them here  in time order. The first is from my grandmother. The second a fun art letter of Dad’s. The third has Dad already gushing over Mom (they married two years later). The fourth a letter from my aunt Keese (Clarice) to Donald. And the last married lady Margaret Ann corresponding with Donald. She did all of the letter writing after she and Dad married. Before that the bulk of the thirteen were letters from Dad to Donald, mostly of the moment typical guy chatter. On the second page of the shipyard letter below Dad tells about going to Cuba and how desolate it was, although the women were quite something else.
I received the lead photo a few weeks after the letters arrived. Guess Donald did finally get to see me! And Lee promises if any of us are in the Atlanta area and have time to stop in, he and his wife will have the house spotless.

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